September 13, 2014

Hounded - Iron Druid Volume I Review

Today, I shall speak to you about Kevin Hearne's Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book One.

Hounded is a hodgepodge of world mythologies centered around a modern, smart-mouthed, 2100 year old "Iron Druid" named Atticus O'Sulllivan whose real name is the slightly less easily pronounceable Siodhachan O Suileabhain. And today's Druids don't "[wear] white robes and [grow] beards like cumulonimbus clouds," as Atticus likes to point out. In fact, the only remaining Druid on earth likes his hot, drool-worthy 21-year old body (trick to immortality's given in the book).

To comprehend this mishmash of divinities coming in and out of his world, demons, here is how Atticus explains it:

[T]he universe is exactly the size that your soul can encompass. Some people live in extremely small worlds, and some live in a world of possibility.

Of course, what would a Druid be without his trusted sidekick, the wolfhound Oberon (who's awfully smart for just a regular old dog). The two banter throughout the book (because of course they talk to each other), whether it's work-related (Atticus has his own shop):

<I'm coming to the shop with you?> he asked, his ears raised in query.
"Aye, you need to remain at my side until this business is finished. Do I need to remind you not to sniff my customers' asses?"
<You just did. and very subtly too, thank you very much.>

...or "work"-related (aka Druid stuff):

<I like the blond [witch]. She knows how to show respect,> Oberon said from behind the counter.
I busied myself making Emily's tea and spoke to him through our link. Yes, well, she's decided to take the high road, so I'll be happy to walk it with her as long as she likes.
<You don' trust her?>
Nope. She's a witch. A polite witch, but still a witch. She's got a charm on her hair that would have had me giving her anything she wanted if I hadn't been wearing protection. Don't take anything from her, by the way.
<You think she's going to pull a sausage out of her coat or something? She doesn't even know I'm here.>
Oh yes she does. Emily has probably already told her.
<Okay, fine. But seriously. You think she has a magic sausage for me?>



In the midst of rutting after every attractive girl (who incidentally gets the hots for him too), Atticus has to deal with his nemesis, a god, witches, an over-confident Tuatha De Danann warrior called Bres, Fir Bolgs (stinky giants with spears), and a plethora of other mythological and ordinary folk.

The main Celtic pantheon he has to deal (whether good, bad or neutral), include the following members of the Tuatha De Danann:

1) Aenghus Og:

[S]ome accounts provide a better picture of his character by also telling of his deeds, such as taking his father's house from him by trickery and slaying both his stepfather and his foster mother. Or the time he left a girl who was hopelessly in love with him and who died of grief a few weeks later. That's more the kind of man we are talking about.
No, the Celtic god of love isn't a cherub with cute little wings, nor is he a siren born of the sea in a giant clamshell. He is not benevolent or merciful or even inclined to be nice on a regular basis. Though it pains me to think of it because of what it says about my people, our god of love is a ruthless seeker of conquest, wholly self-serving, and more than a little vindictive.

Imagine her w/ bow & arrow
Source


2) Flidais:

Flidais and her kind are forever rooted in Bronze Age morality, which goes something like this: If it pleases me, then it is good and I want more; If it displeases me, then it must be destroyed as soon as possible, but preferably in a way that enhances my reputation so that I can achieve immortality in the songs of bards.



Source



3) The Morrigan:

[T]he Morrigan is not renowned for her bullshit detection. She is more renowned for whimsical slaughter and recreational torture.



I had a lot of fun reading through the story. Kevin Hearne's instilled so many funny, snarky passages, I couldn't help be smile (and sometimes chuckle) throughout the book.

The only thing I'd have to say about the humor is that Hearne also tries to be funny (or worse, philosophize) in the middle of battles which takes away from the immediacy of the fight. It's hard to imagine anyone having the time to think so straight in the middle of life-threatening battles, even if you are that old and experienced. Unless Atticus's adrenal glands don't work like those of humans anymore, which is entirely possible.



I understand that the story is told in the past tense, so technically Atticus telling the story now (a definite giveaway that he's going to survive everything, unless he turns into a ghost or something) means he can interject his current philosophies, even in the middle of deadly battles. But the effect remains the same: it takes away from the immediacy of the action and therefore doesn't elevate our blood pressure as we read (which, for my own health, is actually a good thing). Such philosophizing includes the following entertaining passage:

Drug addicts perplex me. They're a relatively recent development, historically speaking. Everyone has their theories--monotheists like to blame it on Godlessness--but I think it was a plague that developed in the sooty petticoats of the Industrial Revolution and its concomitant division of labor. Once people specialized their labors and separated themselves from food production and the daily needs of basic survival, there was a hollow place in their lives that they did not know how to fill. Most people found healthy ways to fill it, with hobbies or social clubs or pseudo-sports like shuffleboard and tiddlywinks. Others didn't.

The only other point that had me occasionally roll my eyes is: Why does every goddess and most other (stunning) female  automatically have the hots for Atticus? Unless he's related to one of the many gods/goddesses of love, that is. Wouldn't it be funny if Aenghus (originally a god of love, might I repeat) turned out to be his father. Then we could have a whole "Atticus, I am your father" scene.


Anyway, these two points didn't make me enjoy the story any less, and I'm very much looking forward to reading the rest of the series (though it's still in progress--5 out of 7 intended books are currently available) and recommend it to anyone who enjoys urban fantasies with sassy protagonists!

Oh, and one final note (or warning, really). Should you ever travel through Arizona and happen to cross paths with Siodhachan O Suileabhain, please remember his words:

I tend to take the long view on dealing with irritating people--as in, I'm going to outlive whoever irritates me, so the problem will eventually go away. I had privately changed "This, too, shall pass" into "You, too, shall die," and it helped me avoid all sorts of conflict.

2 comments:

  1. I am not a fantasy reader, so I will comment on some extraneous things. The sentences "The universe is exactly the size that your soul can encompass. Some people live in extremely small worlds, and some live in a world of possibility." are pretty cool.

    You ask "Why does every goddess and most other (stunning) female automatically have the hots for Atticus?" Well, if I were gay I would definitely have the hots for Atticus. He is so freaking handsome in the pictures you provide. And he is my type :)

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    1. I agree with you on both accounts a 100%.

      The artist did a wonderful rendition of Atticus for the covers, there's no doubt about it. But still, I think it's funny that every single one of them (even the goddess of war and death) can't wait to jump his bones (lame pun intended).

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